How to Determine a Fair Wage for Your Foreign Virtual Assistants

How to Determine a Fair Wage for Your Foreign Virtual Assistants

How much you pay a Virtual Assistant depends on where they live and work. If your hiring from the UK, you can expect to pay anything from £10 to £35 per hour. If you’re hiring from the Philippines you will get offers of work anywhere from £1.00 to £10.00 per hour.

If you’ve never worked with people from overseas, that may sound absurdly low.

You may take objection to these low rates, maybe you think this is ak

in to slave labour, maybe you think it would be impossible to have a good quality of life on £3.10 per hour?

When I first posted our pay rates

The intention of this post is to give you enough information to make your own assessment as to what you should pay your international remote workers. After reading this I hope you will be confident that you are not taking advantage of people and that what you are doing is giving your workers and their families a decent quality of life.

While you are reading this, all I ask is that you keep an open mind and read the whole of this article. If, after reading this, you find an issue with our reasoning, I encourage you to share your thoughts and make suggestions as to how we can determine what would be a fair wage, one that provides a decent and happy life for your team. As you’ll read below, we are conducting further research into this ourselves and will publish our findings in due course.

What is a fair and decent wage?

The question of what is a ‘fair’ wage when hiring from abroad is a difficult one to answer and is the cause of much-heated debate whenever I post about this subject.

When I started using Virtual Assistants, I began with a UK based VA on £12.50 per hour, but, as my company had very little revenue, I was really limited as to how much work I could afford to outsource.

After reading Tim Ferriss’s book, ‘The 4 Hour Work Week’, I got the idea to look further afield to countries where the cost of living is much lower and therefore, the expected pay rates were less.

After a bit of trial and error, I found a great VA based in the Philippines.

When advertising the position, I received over 1000 applicants. Many applicants were asking for as little as $1 per hour (I have since learned this is the rate paid by many larger Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) companies). I took issue with these exceptionally low rates and I know from speaking with my current team of 13 full-time Filipino VAs, that one can hardly exist on $8 per day!

To figure out what I should be paying, I did some research into the average wages for Filipino VAs.

First of all, I looked at the recruitment site I’d used, Online Jobs, https://blog.onlinejobs.ph/comprehensive-guide-to-virtual-assistant-salaries-in-the-philippines,  and Chris Ducker’s blog, author of Virtual Freedom, https://www.chrisducker.com/how-much-do-i-pay-my-virtual-assistant/

Based on these sites, an entry-level wage for a general assistant VA should be about £3.00 per hour (it was a little less when I started a few years ago), so this is what I paid in the beginning.

After some lengthy discussions with our team we reviewed our wage rates earlier in the year and now have a basic starting wage of £3.10 (£3.30 after 4 weeks probation) and we pay considerably more for experienced staff.

I recently posted on Facebook to encourage people to start using Virtual Assistants. In that post, I stated what we currently pay. I had a mixed response, and some people were strongly opposed to paying someone so little.

This prompted me to do some further research, as I wanted to be sure I was paying enough to give people a decent quality of life. I don’t want people working for me to be just surviving day-to-day, I want them to have enough income to enjoy their lives and support their families.

Here’s what I found doing some preliminary research:

At the time of writing (August 2019), The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) currently pegs day-to-day poverty threshold at Php9,063.75 a month for a family of five. This equates to just £141 (€155) per month (for the entire family). However, there is much debate about this being insufficient to provide even a basic living wage above the poverty line. 9 out of 10 families in the Philippines are currently below this poverty line.

In order to know what amount of household income will provide a family with a decent quality of life requires far more data than simply looking at the average earnings and the relative cost of living. For the Philippines, where our team is based, this research has been done by IBON who ‘seeks to promote an understanding of socio-economics that serves the interests and aspirations of the Filipino people’, https://www.ibon.org/about/

They suggest a more realistic minimum household income [for a family of 5] is PHP23,660, or £370.20 (€407.22) per month, including bonuses.

https://www.ibon.org/family-living-wage-for-a-family-of-five-members-in-ncr/

However, The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) has recommended that PHP42,000 or £650 (€715) per month is “a decent income [for an average household of 4.4 people]’ https://www.ibon.org/time-for-govt-to-come-up-with-realistic-poverty-threshold-ibon/

Our entry-level wage for an unskilled, general admin role, full-time Filipino contractor is about £3.10 per hour rising to £3.30 after a 4-week trial period. This equates to £528 (€580) per month. We also give an 8% Christmas bonus, 20 days paid holiday and some additional benefits such as maternity pay. We give inflation-linked pay rises as standard and a performance review linked rise every 6 months.

This means that even if the new trainee is the sole earner in a family of 5, they are above the recommended minimum household income of £370.20 (€407.22).

Once someone has been with us for 12 months, they would typically be on more than £4.06 per hour or £650 (€715) per month (due to promotions and pay rises) and therefore on their single income could support an average-sized family.

You can see all our wage banding here: https://bit.ly/3moNQQP

Below you’ll find a sample of wages, hourly rates and relative cost of living in EU member states. I was surprised to see the seventeen-fold difference between the highest and lowest hourly rate within the EU!

Country
Average NET Annual Wage (single, no kids, 2018)
[Gross Earnings]
Average Household Income (Married Couple, 2 kids 1 at 100% ave, 1 at 67% ave)
Minimum Wage, annualised (2018)
Median hourly earnings (2014)
A relative cost of living Index*
Earnings/Cost of Living^
SwitzerlandNo dataNo dataNo data€29.46230
Luxemburg€41,943€83,499€24,000€18,38174480
UK€34,049€60,151€18,600€14.81174345
EU-19 Average€26,233€48,749No data€14.08N/A
Spain€21,199€37,183€12,600€9.83130286
Czech Republic€11,265€21,810€6,216€4.56100218
Bulgaria€5,512€9,668€3,300€1.6783116
Philippines€8,508^€4,442^^9094

Data from https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat

Hourly Earnings: https://screencast.com/t/O1vlSAOMvP

Minimum Wages: https://screencast.com/t/uNsvMqhZVL1

Gross Salary: https://screencast.com/t/rCLCvyac0

* This is the recommended minimum living wage as the official minimum wage has been criticised as being unrealisticly low.
** This is the recommended Living wage for a family of 5.
*** The idea of including the final column was to give the means to compare the relative wealth of countries. I have simply divided Household Income by the Cost of Living.

Cost of living index from https://www.expatistan.com/cost-of-living/country/ranking

* A Price Index of 134, that means that living there is 34% more expensive than living in the Czech Republic’. See the full explanation here: https://www.expatistan.com/cost-of-living/country/ranking#price-index-explanation

 

The point of including this table is to show that what one needs to get paid, to have an average quality of life is relative to where you live.

This doesn’t mean that a Bulgarian on €1.67 per hour enjoys the same quality of life as a Swiss resident on €29.46. On the contrary, simply by looking at the relationship between hourly rate and cost of living cost index one can see a disproportionately low wage in the poorer countries, suggesting that those people have less disposable income after paying for life’s essentials (last column).

However, if you lived in Switzerland and employed someone living in Bulgaria and paid them €29.46 per hour, that person would have a disproportionately high quality of life due to the relatively low cost of living in Bulgaria compared to Switzerland.

Similarly, if you live in the UK and advertise a Virtual Assistants job at €14.81 per hour (the national average wage) you’d have a pretty tough job of convincing anyone living in Switzerland to apply. Conversely, your average Bulgarian, living in Bulgaria, would jump at the chance of earning €14.88!

The final column is simply the household income divided by the cost of living- this is an arbitrary number and is not proof of anything, but it does suggest that the relationship between household income and the relative cost of living is disproportionate for countries where the average income is lower. This suggests that it may be harder to have a decent quality of life in these countries, despite the low cost of living.

This concerns me as we want our team to enjoy life and not just survive. We are conducting an independent research project into determining what constitutes a fair and decent wage for a typical Filipino VA. For example, we want to know if the wage we pay an individual VA should be sufficient to support their entire family or is it fair to assume there would be more than one earner in the household? There are many other questions we want answers to, and we’ll publish all our methods and findings.

We aim to publish the results in early 2020 and will amend our wages and recommendations if needed.

By providing what we believe is a fair wage to provide a decent quality of life we have been able to provide stable, regular income to 6 people in one of the poorest countries in the world. This number is set to double in the next 6 months. If I had decided to hire within the UK, I would probably still be stuck with one, part-time VA as I simply wouldn’t have been able to grow the company at the same rate.

Our remote team of Filipino VAs run every aspect of our company. They manage other team members, create our websites and marketing materials, conduct research, write articles, solve problems and develop our products and services.

They are our first and second line support, our personal assistants and our source of countless innovations and ideas that help keep our businesses growing. They have genuine career prospects, engage in personal development and training and as a result enjoy their work and add value to our company every day. We rely on them sticking around for the long term, so we need to be sure we are doing right by them!

Using the data currently available to us for the Philippines, we recommend aiming for a family household income of at least £650 per month (including bonuses) for entry-level work. Therefore, we believe that our current base rate of £528.00 per month (not including 8% Christmas bonus) per person is fair. We’re also proud to have 2 families within our team where we employ two family members, so their household income is more than £1000 per month.

I hope you found this useful and welcome your comments and suggestions for our research project.

3 Reasons Why Your Business Needs an Operations Manual

3 Reasons Why Your Business Needs an Operations Manual

You might well be asking, ‘what is an operations manual and why would I need one?’ Your Operations Manual is your guide to running your company. In theory, if you create a complete operations manual, you should be able to get any VA to run your business for you by simply asking them to follow the instructions therein.

Our Top 3 Reasons for having an Operations Manual

1. It removes you from the day to day operations of your business. Therefore, frees up some valuable time for you to concentrate on other tasks.

2. Safeguards your business, as about 90% of businesses fail because they rely heavily on the business owner to function. By allowing your VA to take some of the load off your shoulders you are future-proofing your business.

3. Allows you to easily outsource tasks to any VA hassle-free.

DIDACT Model

Each guide in our operations manual typically contains a video showing the task being done. It will also include a task overview using our DIDACT Model and a checklist of the main steps. This makes it easy for any VA to follow.

For complicated tasks, we also include a detailed step-by-step guide and for complex multi-step tasks, we create a flowchart. This is to show how the steps are related and how to make decisions about task variations while completing the process.

With a few exceptions, we could ask any VA in our business to do any task without them needing help. Of course, people become better and quicker with experience, but this ability to delegate any task to anyone has removed our reliance on key individuals in our organisation- including ourselves!

Why do I need one?

Creating your company’s Operations Manual is the first and most crucial step to removing yourself from the day-to-day operations of your business. This is your ticket to choosing when and how you work. It will enable you to stop doing all the stuff you hate and focus on what you do best. It is also the single most important activity you can do to safeguard your business’s future. About 90% of businesses fail in the first 10 years. One of the biggest reasons is that they rely on the business owner to function.

This inevitably leads to burnout because as your business grows, so does the workload. If you have to oversee every task, you quickly become the bottleneck and the single point of failure. When you take time off, your business productivity inevitably falls.

Safeguarding your business

Creating your Operations Manual effectively removes you as the single point of failure in your business. About 75% of UK businesses don’t have any staff. Having asked over 1000 small business owners what their biggest challenges in outsourcing their work are, a large proportion says something along the lines of ‘finding a reliable VA to do the work to an adequate standard’.

We outsource 10,000’s hours of work each year to our team of Virtual Assistants. I would argue that it’s actually EASY to find a VA to reliably do your work, to an adequate standard IF you have a decent Operations Manual.

We hope you now see the importance of an operations manual and how it could help take the stress out of taking on staff. It will also ensure that every task that needs to be done within your business can be easily delegated, all by having an effective operations manual.

Finally! A Speedy Process For Hiring a Virtual Assistant

Finally! A Speedy Process For Hiring a Virtual Assistant


Are you daunted by the hiring process and don’t know where to start? Read on to find out how you can hire your next virtual assistant with our easy to follow 6-step guide. It will show you how to hire a Virtual Assistant in the Philippines in around an hour. All you need to do is follow the steps and put them into action.

Step 1: You need to write a killer job post.

To attract the best candidates, you need to write a job post that will catch people’s attention. By following our step by step guide in our recent blog, you will be able to write a job post that will draw in the best virtual assistants that the Philippines has to offer: https://blog.systemsandoutsourcing.com/blog/writing-winning-job-post-recruit-best-virtual-assistants

Step 2: Create Your Application Process

Using a Google form is a great way to ask a series of questions to eliminate most of your applications in a few minutes. All you need to do is create a simple questionnaire and then share the link at the end of your job posting.

Step 3: Post Your Advert

The best website that we have found for hiring virtual assistants in the Philippines is https://www.onlinejobs.ph/. Not only is there a wide choice of great virtual assistants who have a variety of skills sets, but you can also post links to your Google form, you just need to subscribe for one month to do this.

Step 4: Shortlisting

A word of warning after years of experience, don’t be tempted to look at any CVs that are sent your way, except those that pass the final video stage. If you do, it will sway you and take you away from the process that you have created.

Instead, do the following:

  1. Unpublish your job advert after 48 hours
  2. Open the Google Form
  3. Click ‘Responses’
  4. Then ‘create spreadsheet’ (green box) to export all of the results.
  5. Turn off ‘accepting responses.’

Now, my quick method for shortlisting candidates is to go to the spreadsheet and look at relevant columns that can help you eliminate candidates based on their answers. For example, a column containing candidates’ answers regarding their availability. The people who answered with a lesser amount than you require can be deleted.

Step 5: Interview

In the 5-minute video that you will have asked the candidates to send over with their responses, a great tip is to watch this video at double speed. This way each interview takes 2.5 minutes per person. This saves you a lot of time and still gives you all the information you need to make an informed choice.

Our team typically interview for most job posts and the entire hiring process takes us around 1 hour, regardless of how many people apply.

Check this FB Live on how you can interview your VA in 2.5 minutes or less: https://www.facebook.com/groups/systemsandoutsourcing/permalink/369065480209016/

Step 6: Start Outsourcing Your Time-Consuming Tasks!

Now you have a new member of your team on board, you can start outsourcing all those time-consuming tasks that were taking up your free time.

We wish you good luck on hiring your next virtual assistant from the Philippines!

Guidelines on Registration & Tax Obligations for Filipino VAs

Guidelines on Registration & Tax Obligations for Filipino VAs

I know the subject of taxation isn’t exactly an exciting subject to most of us, but it is an important one to understand and get right. Having a good understanding of the VA tax obligations in the country where you plan on setting up as a freelancer is a great place to start for any budding VA. When you start up a VA business in the Philippines, the first thing that you really need to look into is ensuring that you are set up in a legit manner. If you are not set up through the taxation system properly it will lead to you having real problems down the line which are easily avoidable with a bit of time and effort in the beginning.

What You Should Know About VA Tax Obligations and Registration

Sole Proprietor or Professional

First of all, you need to think about if you want to be a sole proprietor or a professional? The vast majority of freelancers in the Philippines appear to register themselves as a professional. There are some differences between the two, as you would expect on how you run and register.

The one major reason to register as a sole proprietor is if you want to scale your business and build a team, as this option does make this easier. You can also do this as a professional, but you would need to hire your team as subcontractors instead of employees, so you are not responsible for paying their government contributions or taxes.

Registering with the BIR

Freelancers who are working via the internet in the Philippines must register with the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) who are the central governing body within the Philippines which is responsible for all tax policies, documentation, and compliance.

Those that are self-employed and receiving an income from their profession need to ensure that they comply with the new digital models for freelancers. There are some reasons that you can be exempt from taxation, but please ensure you get up to date advice on this. The reasons are as follows;

  1. If you are earning the minimum wage.
  2. If your gross income is below the Basic Personal Exemption (Php 50,000, regardless of marital status) and Additional Personal Exemption (Php 25,000 per child dependent with a maximum of 4).
  3. If your annual salary is either Php 60,000 or below.

(SOURCE: https://www.taxumo.com/freelance-tax-philippines/ Date accessed: 11/10/19)

To become a fully registered freelancer you need to acquire a Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN). This is the number which will relate to all your accounting matters. The BIR now has an operational e-registration system where you can apply to get your number online. There is a registration fee of Php 500 which is applicable each year and can be paid either online or through an Authorized Agent Banks (AABs) at a convenient location for you. Once you have made the payment you need to attend your nearest BIR office to receive your TIN Card. You need to have this card to start the process of registering as self-employed / freelancer.

The requirements for tax registration are as follows for freelance registration:

  1. Occupational Tax Receipt (OTR) / Professional Tax Receipt (PTR)
  2. PRC License (if Licensed Professional
  3. Barangay Clearance
  4. Form 1901 (3 Copies)
  5. Form 1905 (3 Copies) – If applicable
  6. Form 0605 (3 Copies)
  7. Clear Scanned copy of Birth Certificate
  8. Marriage Certificate (If Applicable)
  9. Proof of Billing
  10. 3 Copies of 2 Valid IDs
  11. Title of Property OR Lease Contract
  12. Copy of Client/Project Contract
  13. 3 Original Signed Copies of Special Power of Attorney (SPA)
  14. Letter of Intent in Registering as a Freelancer / Professional

(SOURCE: WEBINAR with Atty Nelson Kevin Baldonado Date accessed: 11/10/19)

Before you look at completing your certificate of registration which will be issued by the BIR there are a couple of things that you need to understand.

Income Tax

Income tax, which is a tax levied on the income earned, so you need to decide what type of income tax you will be subject to paying.

There are two options of income tax rates you can choose from:

1. Graduated Income Tax Rate

The income tax due is based on your net taxable income. The calculation of rates is shown in the table below.

If you go for the Graduated Income Tax Rate, your gross expenses will be based on whichever type of deduction you choose below:

A. Itemised

This is when you have expenses that you will have paid out for in order to provide the service that you do. With this type of tax deduction, you will need to keep all your receipts on record for your business expenses. These expenses are then deducted off your gross income which lowers your taxable income.

B. Optional Standardised Deduction

This is the option to choose if your business expenses are less than 40% of your gross income as 40% is automatically deducted from your gross income.

2. 8% Flat Income Tax Rate

This option is available to non-VAT registered individuals whose gross sales/receipts for the year does not exceed P3,000,000. Income tax is calculated by getting 8% of your gross sales.

(SOURCE: https://www.bir.gov.ph Date accessed: 11/10/19)

Business Tax

Freelancers in the Philippines are considered self-employed professionals, earning personal income from businesses. This means they are also subject to paying Business Tax.

VAT or Percentage Tax System

You need to think about if you will want to go through the percentage tax system or VAT. You can opt-out of VAT if you are earning under 3 million per year and therefore you need to use the percentage tax system which only requires you to pay 3% of your gross annual sales.

Tax Calendar

Lastly, your Philippine Annual Income Tax Return (BIR Form 1700) needs to be filed and taxes are due to the Philippine Bureau of Internal Revenue on or before the 15th April. The tax year in the Philippines is a calendar year which ends 31st December of each year.

After taking all this information in and processing it just remember that the advantages of getting your taxes in order from the start as a freelance VA are:

  1. You will have a better chance of getting loans approved i.e. house, car etc.
  2. It is one of the requirements for a VISA application.
  3. The most important point is that it will avoid you getting tax penalties.

DISCLAIMER:

PS. We are not accountants, tax or legal experts the advice in this article is for information and advice only. Please seek your own independent legal and professional taxation advice from a qualified accountant.

Well, I hope this guide to taxation in the Philippines didn’t scare you too much, relieves any worries that you had and encourage you to start freelancing as a VA.

Why Are Some Entrepreneurs Overwhelmed When Others Cope Just Fine

Why Are Some Entrepreneurs Overwhelmed When Others Cope Just Fine

I want to share some useful insights I’ve had from speaking to dozens of business owners recently- some are struggling some are notThose that are doing well all have one thing in common, that is the subject of this article.

I have hundreds of friends and associates with property businesses – including myself. Since COVID kicked in, we have been inundated with dealing with cancellations, arrears and issues with development projects falling through.

Right at the time when the business owner needs to focus on saving the business, those that haven’t systemised their processes or who are still doing everything themselves are being overwhelmed by admin. This means they are getting squeezed from both sides- reduced income and a lack of time to do anything about it.

Those that have outsourced their day-to-day operations are able to cope much better, as they have the headspace and time to think and react. Without a team to do the work of your business, you can never take time off, never truly relax on holiday, and as I’ve just described, you will be hit hard at when the unexpected happens.

You quickly become the bottleneck and the single point of failure.

Also, if you are doing all the work, you are your business, you’re gonna have a hard time selling your business when you want to exit as investors aren’t going to be too keen on buying a company that relies on the owner to do everything – it just doesn’t make sense.

Maybe your goal is to leave a legacy. If it is, make sure it’s a legacy that your kids actually want! If they’ve watched you work yourself half to death and be an absent parent as a result, do you think they’d be keen to take over the reins?

I’ve definitely been guilty of putting my work before my family and friends in the past.

If you don’t build a team, you will be trapped in a prison of your own making. Your team is the key to set you free.


Despite all the reasons why growing a team is essential to your business and your own well being,
a staggering 76% of all business in the UK have no staff. 

Why is that? Why do most business owners fail to get help? 

They believe they are:

  • Saving Time
  • Saving Money
  • Are scared of letting go
  • Don’t believe anyone could do their work for them
  • Or they simply don’t know how or where to find affordable, talented staff and how to manage them effectivelyI was guilty of thinking all of these things. Maybe you can relate to some of these too?

    I blame the lack of a good team as the major reason I was on the brink of bankruptcy by the age of 26.

    It was 2006, and I’d been building my property portfolio for 4 years. I’d sunk everything into the latest development project when I ran out of money. I was forced to move back in with my parents, lived off credit cards and used overdrafts and loans to pay suppliers and labourers.

    When the day finally came to get the project approved so I could refinance the property and pay off my debts, I was excited, to say the least.

    That excitement turned into horror when the building inspector refused to sign off the development.

    I’d failed to meet certain fire regulation standards, and the property was deemed as unfit for purpose. It was going to take thousands of pounds that I simply didn’t have to make right.

    I can remember the moment so clearly- where I was stood, what the weather was like, and the sick, churning in my stomach as what should have been the happiest day of my business’ journey suddenly turned into the worst.

    I had no way to pay off my debts, and the interest was mounting up.

    After weeks of stress and sleepless nights, I eventually did get the approval I needed. I was able to remortgage the property, clear my debts, and save my business.

    I was lucky, but many business owners aren’t.

    A major factor in this venture going wrong was that I was trying to do everything myself so I ended up overwhelmed. I made too many mistakes and just didn’t have the time to focus on the important stuff.

    One of my biggest reasons for not growing a team was lack of cash. Hiring UK based staff wasn’t an option. Like most self-funded startups, I just didn’t have the money.

     


After nearly 16 years as a one-man-band, I finally hired my first virtual assistant about 4 years ago.
 

That was a turning point in my business and my life. I now have an established team, based in the Philippines, that run all my day-to-day operations, leaving me to focus on leading my company and sharing my knowledge with anyone who cares to listen (thank you for listening!). 

Like most companies, since COVID we have seen a squeeze on our revenue and we’ve had to turn all our attention to creating new content and services to help people get through these challenging times. In doing so, we’ve increased our sales by providing value to our clients. 

At the same time, we’ve also downscaled our team. 

Because we have robust systems, this has been a relatively painless activity for us as a business, despite it being one of the hardest things we’ve had to do emotionally, as we had to let some great people go. Thankfully, we managed to find jobs for everyone with our clients, so no one ended up losing their income! 🙂 

Also, since we have great systems, our remaining team is still able to run all of the day-to-day operations to allow me to focus on income-generating activities. 

If we didn’t have the team and systems in place to cope, we’d be in serious trouble right now. Instead, we are positioned to come out of this stronger and more profitable than we went in. 

I feel incredibly lucky that I figured out how to create systems and work with remote teams that live in countries, where the cost of living means we can pay just a few pounds per hour for highly talented workers and still give our staff a great quality of life. 

Working with Virtual assistants and creating systems and automation has saved our business during these challenging times. 

If you’ve not already done this, now is the perfect time to get started so you can outsource your admin and focus on generating income and taking advantage of the new opportunities as they arise. 

I’ll be sharing more content soon about how you can easily make the transition to building an affordable remote team soon, so keep your eyes open for my next few posts. 

Until then, I wish you all the best. 

Please feel free to get in touch if you need help. 

Reference

*THE REPORT ON SMALL FIRMS 2010-2015, Lord Young 2015.

15 Ways to De-Stress and Entertain Kids While Working from Home

15 Ways to De-Stress and Entertain Kids While Working from Home

Are you feeling stressed out juggling working from home while trying to entertain the kids?

It is a tough line to walk to keep everyone happy, but through getting organised and with the help of some useful sources, you can beat the stress and balance your work life with family time.

 

Here are my 15 tried and tested methods that have worked for me:

1.  Get up and get motivated

It can be just too easy to stay in your PJ’s all day. Therefore, you need to stick to the routine as if you were going out to work and get up at a reasonable time, have a shower and get dressed, just like a normal day. Have some breakfast and talk to your children about what is happening that day, so everyone understands what is expected of them.

 

2. If you haven’t already done so, set up a practical workspace

To be able to concentrate, you need a dedicated workspace in the house where you can organise your workstation and focus.

Ideally, this space should have some natural light, as this helps to motivate you. It is also great if you have a spot in the house where you won’t get disturbed too much when you are working and that you can close off at night and forget about work, so you have some proper downtime.

 

3. Have a routine

It is important to get into a daily routine while working from home. Children are more settled if they know what is expected of them. By having a daily agenda, they will know what time you are working, when they will be doing homework and when you can all have some proper family time with no distractions.

 

4.  Have realistic expectations

Don’t try to pretend that things are normal and that you are sitting in an office with no distractions. Be realistic, children are unpredictable and may interrupt you when you have a call, or something may happen that requires your attention.

To reduce your anxiety and stress levels, it is best to be upfront with co-workers about what is going on and that you have children at home.

Most people will be understanding of this, and if you are interrupted, they will know why.

 

5. Take regular breaks

Make sure that you take regular breaks throughout the day while working from home and spend this time learning and exploring new things with your children.

If you have older children/teenagers, try and engage with them in break times. Get them off their screens and find an activity that you can both enjoy. This could be something exercise-based, letting them show you something they have learnt or discuss something topical that will create debate and get you talking.

 

6.  Capitalise on nap times

Nap times are great times to take calls and catch up on those tasks that need your full concentration. So, make sure you factor nap times into your schedule and make the most of them.

7.  Virtual Team Building

Interaction with others is vital for mental well-being. It will give you some adult conversation and it helps motivate you too. Why not get online with your workmates and enjoy some fun and games? You could get competitive with typing speeds or have a team quiz.

Take a look at https://teambuilding.com/locations/virtual-remote

 

8.  Get Outside

Some physical exercise outdoors can improve your physical and mental health. It can be taking a walk, jogging or getting out in the garden and playing with your children. Some fresh air and getting moving will make you feel more motivated and will improve your productivity too.

Take a look at this health app: https://www.calm.com/

 

9. Get Fit indoors

Not everyone has a garden, and there are great ways to have fun and get fit indoors with the help of some YouTube videos and fitness experts’ programs which you can sign up to:

Joe Wicks PE Classes are great for kids: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL0kdTyVEX-wKPwxH6Eil7i2F3lTkdqaud

Divina McCall Own Your Goals https://ownyourgoalsdavina.com/account/login

Live Wells London has some great dance routines to learn, like this one with Faye Edwards: https://www.livewelllondon.com/blog/workout-video-fit-jam-with-faye-edwards-live-well-london-ambassador

 

10.  Treats for kids

Reserve films and TV programmes for when you have calls planned. If you can, let the children use headphones. This way, the house should be quiet, and you can stay nearby and monitor them.

Another good idea is to have a “box of treats”, which they get if they are behaved. It can involve computer games, board games, creative projects, free e-book downloads or the chance to download a new movie.

Take a look at https://disney.co.uk/ or https://www.oxfordowl.co.uk/for-home/find-a-book/library-page/

 

11.  Rotating children’s toys

By rotating toys throughout the day, your children won’t get bored with them as quickly. This is a handy tip that can free up enough time for a quick call.

 

12.  Get Creative Online

Make the most of your break time and get creative with some fun GIF’s that children will love. https://www.gifpal.com/

 

13. Down Time

At the end of the day, it is important to have some downtime with your family. It can be cooking together, watching TV or reading your children a bedtime story, whatever you all enjoy.

 

14.  Manage your anxiety

Children pick up on your stress and anxiety, so it is important to manage these feelings. Be realistic, communicate with each other and make sure everyone’s needs are responded to.

If you have a partner or someone to share your problems with, it is a good idea to do this, as a problem shared is a problem halved.

If things are getting on top of you, find a space where you can go for some time to calm yourself down, and when you do go back in, you will feel able to deal with the situation at hand.

  

15.  Stay calm and patient

It can be hard sometimes if you have work to do, and your children are vying for your attention.

Stay calm and explain to children that you need to finish something off, and then they will have your undivided attention.

It is tough but try to be patient and not shout, as that will just exasperate a stressful situation. Children also respond better if you talk to them calmly, as they must listen more to hear what you are saying. When you shout, they tend to just switch off anyway.

 

We would be interested to hear how these tips work for you when you are working from home with children. If you have any of your own ideas to share, please do.

10 Practical Hacks to Be More Professional During Online Meetings

10 Practical Hacks to Be More Professional During Online Meetings

The popularity of online meetings has skyrocketed in recent times.

However, many businesses are failing to train their staff on how to participate effectively in remote meetings.

As a result, communication can feel disjointed and impersonal, which can negatively impact productivity and ruin rapport.

In this article I address the ten most common mistakes to ensure you and your team are both professional and engaged when meeting online.

 

1. Internet

  • Video lag and intermittent sound negatively impacts meetings and leads to frustration and delays.
  • If you can watch YouTube or Netflix on high resolution without interruption to the playback, then your internet should be sufficient for online meetings.
  • Make sure you test your internet before the meeting using www.speedtest.com. Try positioning your computer nearer your router or use a wired connection. Consider fibre-optic and have a 4G backup

 

2. Audio

  • You can’t participate in an online meeting if people can’t hear you! Straining to hear someone and having to ask them to repeat themselves continually is frustrating and kills the flow of conversations.
  • Consider purchasing an external mic on a stand or a headset with a mic-arm to keep your hands free. Laptop and camera mics are notoriously low quality.
  • 38% of communication is through the tone of your voice. Therefore, it’s essential you speak at a natural volume and don’t get frustrated if people can’t hear you as this may affect how people interpret the meaning of your words.

 

3. Camera

  • Communication is 55% visual. When you chose not to switch on your video, you make it easier for the meaning of your words to be misinterpreted. It’s also really disconcerting when you have your camera, and someone else doesn’t!
  • Quick tip- drag the meeting window to the top of your screen as near to your camera as possible. Make the window small, so your eyes are looking in the direction of your camera when you are watching the speaker on screen. Also, use the ‘speaker focus’ view if available as this stops you having to flick your eyes around the screen each time someone new starts to speak.
  • One more thing. Don’t force your colleagues and clients to stare up your nose for the entire meeting! Your camera needs to be at eye level. Consider using an external camera or use an external keyboard and mouse so you can prop your laptop on a laptop stand (or a few books).

 

4. Lighting

  • Having a camera is pointless if people can’t see your face! For this, you need to have a well-positioned light source.
  • Sit facing a window or other light source. Turn off lights behind you and close any blinds. Try to light your face from both sides if possible.

 

5. Longer Pauses

Many of the natural cues from body language and posture missed in online meetings, so you need to give people extra time to respond. This is especially true when people are new to online meetings as it can take a while for them to gain confidence in the new environment.

 

6. Encourage Participation

When people sit around a table, it’s easy to spot when someone isn’t involved, and a good Chair would bring them into the conversation. This is much more challenging in remote meetings, and it’s easy to forget about quite individuals so everyone should make a conscious effort not to speak over people and to involve everyone in the discussions.

 

7. Written Notes

Unless you are a master touch-typer, I recommend you scribble your notes on paper and type them up later. Doing this will allow you to focus better on the conversations as you’re not continually looking at and thinking about your finger position.

 

 

8. Share Your Screen

When you discuss a document, web page or anything on your computer, share your screen and use your mouse to highlight as your would a laser pointer during a presentation. Doing this improves engagement and makes it much easier to follow what you are talking about- especially when bringing the conversation back after a tangent.

 

9. Record

  • Online meetings can be recorded at the touch of a button. Consider if this would be useful for your company. We do this so our team can clarify what was said without having to ask the attendees to recall events at a later date.
  • We also scribe our meetings using the recordings as the scribe can listen at double speed so this saves time and money.
  • Having a video archive has also proved useful with dispute resolution. We also share recordings of coaching sessions with our clients and staff so they can refer back as needed.

 

10. Listen

  • And finally, LISTEN! When you’re in an online meeting, it’s easy to think people can’t see you. You may be tempted to check emails, look at your phone or whatever else you can think of. Try to resist this urge. Instead, imagine that you are sat in the meeting room with your colleagues and only do the things you would if they could see you.
  • In an online meeting, people can still see your eyes. If you continually look at your phone, they will think your distracted and not paying attention.
  • Lastly, if your the host, try to stare directly at the camera when other people speak, rather than looking at their image on the screen. This makes people feel as though you are giving them your undivided attention.

Good luck with your online meetings!

Dr. Steve Day

PS: If you’re using Zoom Meetings, please click here to watch this 30 minute deep dive into setting up and using Zoom like a pro.

10 Ways A Virtual Assistant Can Help Free Your Time

10 Ways A Virtual Assistant Can Help Free Your Time

If you are drowning in admin, email management or struggling with your digital marketing and website design, you’re not alone. Many entrepreneurs struggle with all the tasks that need to get done each day and end up working late into the night. If this is a problem that you frequently have, maybe you need to try working with a virtual assistant.

Virtual Assistants For Entrepreneurs

Finding the right virtual assistants can take a bit of time. Therefore, it is important to find the right person and someone who fits your business needs. Besides, once you find the perfect VA they can save you hours of time and effort, from managing your diary and emails to updating your website. Also, they will help you get out from under the mountain of work, and you will have some free time to concentrate on other aspects of your life.

Here is a list of tasks that a Virtual Assistant can typically help you with:

1. Email Management

If your inbox is overflowing or you are continually receiving messages, a virtual assistant can be of help. They can sort through your inbox and file emails, respond appropriately and unsubscribe to any unwanted emails.

2. Transcription

A virtual assistant can help you take your audio and transcribe it.

3. Data entry

Data entry can be a very time-consuming task and one that you can easily outsource to a VA. Simply send over the documents with the data, and your virtual assistant will add these to your software or spreadsheet.

4. Research

You can ask your virtual assistant to do your research for you. This can be travel itineraries, your competitors, product comparisons etc. They can perform these, and list their finds and sources of information.

5. Social media management

Your VA can manage all your social media platforms. Which means that they can upload posts, add images, manage comments, among other things.

6. Documents

Anything from reports to presentations, quotes, invoices and any other type of document can all be consolidated by your virtual assistant.

7. Proofreading

It is always a good idea to get your documents checked over by another set of eyes. Your VA might not be a professional proofreader. Although, they can read through your documentation and look for errors that you may have missed.

8. Website Design

Virtual assistants don’t just do your admin, some of them specialise in website design, content writing, and SEO. If you require a new WordPress site or regular updates, these are tasks that you could outsource to the right VA.

9. Video Editing

Video editing is a very time-consuming task. Going through your videos and cutting and merging content can take up hours of your time. This is a good job to outsource to a VA.

10. Content Writing

Writing is something you either enjoy or don’t. Some of us are great at writing engaging content, and others just aren’t. If you dread writing content or it just isn’t something you have time to do regularly, you can outsource it to your virtual assistant.

The relationship – Virtual assistants for entrepreneurs

Your virtual assistant really can make life easier, and the sky is the limit. They can help you with a wide variety of tasks. As you build up a relationship with your assistant, they can become a big part of your team. Your VA will save you time, and in some cases, even money.

I believe that if you try working with a virtual assistant it will be a positive experience and one you won’t regret.

Our Guide to Paying The 13th Month Pay Benefit

Our Guide to Paying The 13th Month Pay Benefit

You might be wondering what does a 13th month pay benefit mean? After all, there are still only 12 months in a year, right?

You’re right, there are still only 12 months every year. Although, if you are a business who has Filipino workers the 13th month pay benefit is essential. In the Philippines, people who work for you within many employment sectors will be expecting their 13th month pay to be paid to them by the 24th December each year.

Philippines Labour Laws

The 13th month pay benefit is a mandatory benefit in the Philippines. It is based on an employee’s basic salary. It is supported by the Department of Labour and Employment and unique to the Philippines and their labour standards.

The 13th month pay should be equivalent to one-twelfth (1/12) of an employee’s basic annual salary. Although, to our knowledge, not everyone is automatically expected to receive this benefit. Contracted employees are one sector who don’t need to be legally paid this benefit. So, if you pay your staff on a contract basis, on a task basis or a fixed amount for specific work, this 13th month pay doesn’t appear to be mandatory.

Here’s a sample of how to calculate for the 13th month pay:

Total basic salary earned for the year / 12 months = 13th month pay

January10,000 Php
February10,000 Php
March10,000 Php
April10,000 Php
May10,000 Php
June10,000 Php
July10,000 Php
August10,000 Php
September10,000 Php
October10,000 Php
November10,000 Php
December10,000 Php
Total basic salary earned for the year 120,000 Php
13th month pay  = 120,000 / 12

Pay Benefit = 10,000 Php

(Source: Philippine Department of Labour and Employment FAQ: http://bwc.dole.gov.ph/faqs-on-13th-month-pay)

Just because it might not be a legality or mandatory to your team, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t look at paying it. Culturally in the Philippines, it is expected. After all, this is their Christmas bonus. It is also a great way to show your team that you respect their culture and really appreciate all their hard work and the loyalty they have shown you. If you don’t pay the 13th month pay, then you risk upsetting staff relations. If people don’t feel rewarded and nurtured by your business, they will look elsewhere.

After all your contracted staff have bills to pay and responsibilities in their daily life. By doing a good job for you, it is only right they get a bonus which will help make the festive season a happier one.

13th month pay benefit deadline and what to include

The law doesn’t stop employers from paying their 13th month pay early. It does state that it should be paid no later than the 24th December.

When you are calculating their 13th month pay things like overtime, holiday pay, night differential pay is not included. Maternity leave is also not necessary to include. Even though it will have been paid while they were on maternity leave, it is not seen as mandatory because they were not physically working for you at this time.

Employees who terminated their contract

The labour laws in the Philippines has made provisions that cover those individuals who resigned or whose employment contract was terminated, before the 13th month payment. The payment will need to be in alignment with the number of days a resigned employee has rendered.

 

As we ARE NOT recruitment or legal specialists, we highly recommend that you take advice from an expert within the field of recruitment/employment law, within the Philippines. This is only a guide, so please DON’T take everything written as fact.

Hopefully, this guide to the 13th month pay has shown you the importance of paying this bonus. Through awarding it you will help to keep your team loyal to your business in the year to come.

6-Step System to Outsource Your Market Research to your VA

6-Step System to Outsource Your Market Research to your VA

Getting to know your potential customers, their unmet needs and who your competitors are is essential if you are going to effectively market your new idea, service or product. Using language which resonates with your target audience and answering actual problems is a fast track way to build trust and convert them into ardent fans.

The problem is, doing all these can take a long time, and traditionally relies on building models, or avatars, of your clients. Below, I describe an alternative method, where you find real people, using real language to describe their real unmet needs, and then use those facts, rather than an avatar, to produce relevant and compelling marketing material to get your big idea directly into the hands of the people who need it most.

There are two parts to this article, and you need to read both to get the full value out of it.

First, you will find a summary of 7 Useful Google Search Techniques which will give you better, more relevant results, and considerably cut down your research time. Some of these ideas are borrowed from ‘Will it Fly’ by Pat Flynn. Others, we learned through our own research and good old trial-and-error.

Second part, is the 6-step system to delegate this entire job to your VA, so they do all the hard work for you! This is exactly what I did when I performed market research for my Systems and Outsourcing Platform, Course and Mentorship Program. The nuggets of marketing gold I uncovered during that process has enabled me to fill the first two courses, with a waiting list for the third, without spending a single penny on marketing or ads!

I have a background in computing, systems, and medicine and had no previous marketing experience so if this worked for me it will work for absolutely anyone!

7 Useful Google Search Techniques

1. Use Google Text Prediction and Related Search Results to come up with popular search phrases AKA ‘long-tail keywords’ to get better search results.

2. Search for phrases: Combine long-tail keywords with quotation marks to list only sites containing the whole phrase e.g. “managing virtual assistants”

3. The power of the colon!
Using a colon, you can find information from specific sites, related sites, or types of documents sources amongst other things.

For example, say you know ‘chrisducker.com’ is a popular blog site for VA related ideas. Using the search term “related:chrisducker.com” will list sites which are similar to chirsducker.com.

Other ‘colon’ searches include:
Search a specific site- site:<root URL> <query> [root URL means without http:// or www.]
Search for a type of file- <query> filetype:<file extension>

4. Digging for gold in forums! Forums can provide an honest, unfiltered insight into your customer’s thoughts and grievances about existing products or services that you are hoping to compete against. To search only forums use “inurl:”. For example, the search term “virtual assistants inurl:forum OR inurl:forums” will list only sites where the word forum or forums appear in the URL (i.e. forums) that contain the words ‘virtual assistants’, You can do the same for blogs, too.

5. Use AND or OR. You can narrow or expand your search results using AND or OR. For example “blog AND outsourcing” will only list sites containing both words, “blog OR outsourcing” will list sites containing either word.

6. Exclude keywords. If you want to exclude a word from your results, for instance, “UK”, use the minus sign (-). For example, “virtual assistants -UK” will mostly list sites outside of the UK (nb. This doesn’t exclude paid AD sites containing “UK”).

7. Google’s Advanced Search feature. Just click “Settings” under the search bar, then click “Advanced search” in the drop-down menu for loads more options to play with.

For a really comprehensive guide of 67 different Google Search techniques you can check out Dr. Peter J. Meyers blog here: https://goo.gl/C8fBqc


Putting it all into practice:

The 6-Step Marketing Research System (for your VA!)

Below is a real-life example to demonstrate how you can use these techniques to help market a new product. This simple 6-step system will massively reduce your research time, allowing you to delegate the majority of the work to your VA and, more importantly, identify real-life problems that actually need solving and to describe your solution in words that resonate with your customers.

STEP 1- Be clear on why you are doing this!

This is a fact-finding exercise so don’t expect your VA to come up with your polished marketing copy or you will be disappointed! The purpose of this activity is to identify who your target audience is, where they hang out, what their unmet needs are and who is already serving them.

For example, my goals were to:
Identify common search terms in my niche
Identify the influential people and companies within my niche
Locate where my potential customers reside online (which forums, blogs, etc.)
List recurring problems, and grievances experienced by my customers
Record phrases, words, terminology used by my target audience

STEP 2 – Come up with some words and phrases to get your VA started.

For instance, we wanted to find what information and services were already in the marketplace for VAs, systems and outsourcing. So we guessed at some terms and keywords, as follows:
virtual assistant / VA
business systems
systemise
Systemisation
outsourcing
operations manual
task management
delegate

The problem was that we weren’t generating the results that we needed.
For example, “virtual assistant” gave us information on virtual assistant services available online. General terms such as “business systems”, “systemising”, “systemisation” produced results about finding solutions to business problems in general, whether or not a VA is involved or not. “Outsourcing” lead us to information on physical outsourcing of labour from other countries.

STEP 3- Identify you long-tail keywords

Use the technique described above to find popular search terms and use these to refine your results.

By doing this, we identified a set of long-tail keywords which produced not only more results, but better results.
“systemising outsourcing”
“managing virtual assistants”
“remote employee management”
“virtual assistant management”
“systemising virtual assistant management”
“system for virtual assistant management”

STEP 4- Find your target audience and the key-people of influence in your niche

Next, combine these long tail keywords with the ‘inurl:<blog/forum>’ technique or use AND ‘blog/forum’ to find where your customers hang-out and who they are listening too. Getting to know who the key players are and how they are connecting effectively with your potential clients is absolute gold when it comes to social media marketing!

From the lists of blogs and forums, identify the most popular by checking out the number of subscribers, ratings, activity levels, frequency of posts etc
Think 80:20 – you want to spend ALL your time focusing on the 20% of sites and people that are reaching 80% of your audience.

STEP 5- Learn the problems and language of your customers.

Search the top blog sites and forums by combining the URL with phrases such as “I hate it when”, or “Why is it” or “How do I” to find grievances and real-life problems from customers. It’s these problems that you need to solve in order to connect with your target audience and market your product or service.
For example, ‘site:virtualassistantforums.com “I hate it when”

Reading the posts can take a bit of time so is best left to your VA to sort through the noise and find the hidden gems. But don’t let your VA paraphrase! Ask them to copy and paste whole sentences or paragraphs- this will enable you to learn the language and terminology as well as uncover the problems and unmet needs.

STEP 6 – Ask your VA to create a structured spreadsheet listing all of this information

(I drafted one first and then had my VA refine it as she went along)

They should include sites, forums, blogs, phrases, words, comments and questions that come up regularly. Always include the URL for every piece of information so you can quickly refer back to it if needed.

The purpose of this is to make your life as easy as possible and let your VA do the time-consuming work for you.

Once I had all this information in a spreadsheet, I asked my UK based PA to read through and pull out key phrases, problems, language etc – I felt I needed someone who was a native English speaker to do this. If you haven’t got a UK PA then you might have to roll your sleeves up and do a little work yourself!
Now you have a valuable resource to use when creating your service or when deciding which product will best serve your audience. You know where to find your potential customers and who is already serving them. You also crucially know what their unmet needs are and are ready to explain how you can solve their problems using language that resonates with them!